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Memorial Day Sports Ban


North Dakota's Blue Laws are infamous for not only their strict provisions as compared to other states, but also for their long duration. Blue Laws, which limit certain events or actions on days of observance, most often Sundays, have been a part of American history since its founding, and were even enacted in the original Puritan colonies of Connecticut before the country was established.

In North Dakota, Blue Laws were included in the original state constitution of 1889, but were amended and removed one by one since that time. On this date in 1973, another law came before the North Dakota Legislative Committee for proposed removal or amendment. The law was created in 1911 and prohibited sporting and entertainments before 2 p.m. on Memorial Day. Although the purpose of the law was to prevent "...interfer[ence] with the proper observance of such day," many lawmakers argued that the vagueness of the law made its violation almost certain. One such lawmaker, Killdeer Representative Jack Murphy, urged the committee to repeal the law because its wording was too broad. The law read that "no person...shall engage in ball games, horse racing, sports, or any entertainment." Representative Murphy believed that this could be interpreted to include anything from fishing to watching television.

Repealing the law had originally been suggested by the Legislative Council's staff committee. The recommendation declared the law "archaic, unenforceable, and vague." The legislators did not repeal the law, but instead voted 7-5 to delay action until a new violation section could be established. This violation section incorporate additional Blue Laws, but would classify them as violations rather than criminal offenses. Today in North Dakota, commerce is limited between the hours of midnight and noon on Sunday, car dealerships are not allowed to operate, and until 1992, all retail stores were to remain closed on Sundays.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


The Fargo Forum. Monday, June 25, 1973: p. 8.